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Hybrid Computing—3 Ways to Deliver the Hybrid IT Efficiency Payoff
August 6, 2012
Alan Radding, Big4.com Guest Blogger
(A book is the best way to build a consulting practice: ask about ghostwriting your book.)
No enterprise data center today runs just one platform. Typically, they have Intel/Windows or some flavor of UNIX/Linux as their main production systems but they generally run a mix of platforms and operating systems, even throwing Apple, VMware, and mainframes into the mix. They end up with this mix of platforms for perfectly understandable reasons, such as acquisitions or to meet special software requirements, but it results in a certain amount of inefficiency and added cost. For example, you need to hire and retain people with multiple skill sets.
Traditionally, large enterprises simply accepted this as an inevitable fact of life. This need not be the case going forward. Hybrid computing changes that dynamic. Three hybrid approaches have emerged that can alter this so-called fact of life:
- Cloud computing
- Virtual private servers (VPS)
- Hybrid hardware servers
The consulting firms appear to be betting on cloud computing as the preferred solution. Deloitte, for example, talks about the hyper hybrid cloud. Here their IT or consulting firms integrate and orchestrate multiple cloud players as cloud brokers deliver bundled, composite business capabilities that meet the organizations’ needs while hiding and managing the complicated hybrid environment as a single virtualized system.
CSC is partnering with HP on its converged hybrid cloud initiative. To that end, the firm is committed to assisting its clients in capitalizing on HP’s 3-year converged Data Center Transformation initiative to gain the rewards of its hybrid data center infrastructure.
Virtual private servers (VPS) provide another way to create different logical servers running different operating systems to meet multiple business needs within the same physical server. For example, KnownHost enables hybrid servers through custom -built enterprise hardware featuring dual CPU quad core Xeon with RAID 10 configurations and virtualization technology from Virtuozzo. Each hybrid server gets a guaranteed amount of RAM, bandwidth and disk space and is fully isolated from other servers on the machine.
Doing much the same, WiredTree uses the latest advances in server hardware combined with virtualization software, again Virtuozzo. The result: affordable, fully-managed logical servers that bring performance and reliability features normally only found in enterprise-level hardware.
IBM currently appears to be the only firm offering true hardware-based hybrid computing. It leverages blade technology to run multiple hardware platforms and operating systems on a single, physical system but manages it all as a single virtual system. To date it provides two hybrid platforms: the zEnterprise-zBX combination and IBM PureSystems appliances starting with PureFlex and PureApplication. Both are tightly integrated, highly optimized systems that accept a variety of platform blades. Although there is platform overlap the two hybrid environments do not support exactly the same operating environments.
For example, PureSystems brings the IBM System i platform to the hybrid party along with Power and System x (x86), which are supported by the zBX too, but skips the mainframe’s z/OS and z/VM operating environments. You manage the PureSystems hybrid environment with the Flex System Manager (FSM). The zEnterprise-zBX has its own hybrid management tool, the Unified Resource Manager.
IBM has a couple of potential rivals in the hybrid computing space. Oracle/Sun offers a variety of Sun servers that run either Solaris or Windows/Linux x86 operating systems but it has shown no interest in tightly integrating and optimizing them as hybrid servers as IBM has. Similarly, HP could combine HP-UX and Windows/Linux on a single hybrid x86/Itanium server, but again it has shown no intention of doing this. Instead, both vendors direct hybrid computing discussions to the cloud, where the different systems can play together at a much higher level of abstraction. (IBM also offers a multi-platform cloud environment.) Cisco has an offering that looks similar, FlexPod, a combination of Cisco and NetApp hardware, but it is mainly a virtualization play around VMware, not a hybrid server.
The payoff from hybrid computing is increased efficiency and lower TCO. By leveraging a hybrid server the IT consultant can help the client reduce IT infrastructure sprawl, streamline management and operations, and lower overall costs sufficiently to pay for the hybrid investment fast.